31 Comments

  1. Reading this made my blood boil. WHY CAN’T WE PROPERLY COMPENSATE TEACHERS ACCORDING TO YOUR VALUE IN SOCIETY?!?!?! Argh. And then people complain about all the “lazy” teachers (um, sure), but then don’t see that paying teachers more would attract more talent, and not just the rare talented AND altruistic souls such as yourselves who are called to do it no matter what it pays. (Okay, sorry, you’ve heard me rant about this plenty.)

    As for your bigger question, I’ve never been the “primary” breadwinner, which is frustrating only because I still win plenty of bread. Though I’m certainly happy to have Mr. ONL’s larger paychecks helping to speed our FI progress, I do think there’s something slightly invalidating about perpetually being the partner who earns less, even though you work just as hard or harder. So I think it’s great that your husband will get to wear the crown for a little while. 🙂

    • Yes! I’m so excited for him. I might be a little cranky when the reality sets in, but even to see him get his first paycheck after finishing his Master’s was the best gift. It wasn’t a huge raise, but just to watch him react to his efforts paying off was awesome. You’re definitely right that I need to be a team player about this!

  2. I can’t believe your school district is doing this to you. Shouldn’t your district pay you 100% of your salary while you work, it sounds like they’re only paying 68% while you work. I hope that means 68% for the entire school year because you are working 68% of the school days.

    And your district imposes a $2100 fine if your spouse can get insurance at their job, but goes through them? That’s absurd, I’ve never heard of a company or district doing that. I don’t know why our society punishes people so much.

    Okay, rage done. Do you have any plans to help smooth out your income over the next several months? Or will you just draw from your savings?

    • Yup. It seems unfair to me, too. I can make the math work, but I don’t like it and probably never will. They’re dividing the number of days in my contract across my paychecks. So it’s not illegal. But the frustrating part is all of the hours I’m expected to put in outside of the school day and on weekends. While I could always argue that my contract says I don’t have to do that work, when you’re evaluated based on how involved you are and the data you produce, you work as much as you can!

  3. It is messed up that they make it so difficult and confusing to get your FMLA leave. Apparently it isn’t insulting enough that we have the worst benefits for new mothers in the developed world, so we need to tack on a frustrating system just to get them.

    My wife and I have swapped higher-earner status back and forth a handful of times. When we first got together I was still in school and then I graduated into a low-paying fellowship, so she was the big time breadwinner for the beginning of our relationship. We’ve since made pretty similar salaries every year and alternate with who makes slightly more. Last year my salary was higher but she caught up with her side hustle income.

    • I love that you’ve traded the roll back and forth. I bet that helps keep you both firmly on the same financial page!

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about the cut to your income. It’s so unfair to take a cut when it’s not our fault.

    I’ve also been the breadwinner for almost two years while Mr. FAF is in school. He’s graduating later this summer and will make much more than me. He’s been relishing his future breadwinner status. Although I hate to admit it, I’ve enjoyed that status too!

    But at the end of the day, I try to think on the bright side. I like making more money than him, but it’s only temporary. In the long run, I want Mr. FAF to make as much as he possibly can whether he’s a breadwinner or not.

    • Yes, I think you’re right, Mrs. FAF. You cheer each other on to maximize that money because it ultimately benefits you both. Great perspective!

  5. I’m currently the breadwinner and we were just talking about this! I took a new job two weeks ago and … it’s awful. We talked about how life would be if I were to just stay at home (sans kiddos) and do odd jobs to bring in a little extra money. It’s so tempting, but it’s hard to put down the “breadwinner” status. But that’s how life goes sometimes.

    Good luck with little Half Penny! Y’all are going to be terrific parents. 🙂

    • I will definitely have to come back to this post when I’ve actually put the title down. I think it’s one think to anticipate it, and it’s probably something different to experience it. I’m sorry that your new job is awful. Do you think things will pan out or is the writing on the wall?

  6. I’ve luckily never had to take a reduction in pay. But I have debated taking a pre-meditated reduction in pay, but can’t pull myself to do that quite yet. I’m sorry you have to go through all this crap with insurance and maternity leave (or lack there of). I’m sure little Penny will make it all worth it.

    • Little Penny will be 100% worth it! Do you think that the reduction would offer other benefits? Like more free time or less stress? I imagine that’s a hard trigger to pull!

      • Oh for sure I would only take the reduction for more time and less stress, but I have it pretty good right now with my remote arrangement that I think I need to ride the current wave as long as I can. Grass isn’t always greener which is a hard concept for me to understand.

  7. It’s a shame what’s happening to you. Even Mr. G’s crazy govt job had insanely good benefits. But that’s probably because they were part of the NY State system, not local government.

    In NY Mr. G was always the breadwinner by a big margin. For a very short time after we moved I earned more because he took a pay cut to do something he enjoyed. But he quickly progressed and was back to earning more. Maybe I’m just old fashioned (although I was a staunch feminist when I was younger) but I liked it much better when he earned more.

    • I really appreciate your honesty, Mrs. G! Maybe I can learn to love this, too. I don’t hate (except for the pay cut part).

  8. Damn! Sorry to hear your school district is a douche when it comes to benefits. That’s super lame!
    Right now I’m the primary breadwinner since my husband still has one year left in school. I actually really like it. My mom was always second-breadwinner and she never got to make as many financial decisions it seemed, she was always shuttered to the backseat by my dad.
    My husband would never do that (neither would I), but still – it makes me at least feel good knowing that I am contributing a hefty chunk towards our financial goals.
    Of course, after my husband graduates, his chunk will be larger and that’s fine – as long as we’re making more progress! 😀

    • Haha. That saddest realization I’ve come to is that my district seems to just be following precedent. Not only of other districts but how courts have actually ruled on interpretations of contracts (in our district and others).

      And I’m right there with you. Progress matters more than who is in the front seat. And you never know. Between your freelancing, your blog, and all the other success that I’m certain will come your way, you might be surprised!

  9. I’m so sorry that this is the reality you’re facing, but I’m really glad you’re writing about it. I don’t have kids (and don’t intend to) so it’s important that you share this information so that us non-parents are aware of how women are treated in the workforce. I had no idea that this sort of stuff was considered the norm and I’m truly appalled.

    • I have to admit that I, too, have been part of the problem in the past. It wasn’t until the past two years that we started to consider that we might want to be parents (now we really do, of course!). Previously, I had voiced concern about my contract for other reasons, but I generally bypassed the maternity leave section. Had I read more closely, I would have realized that while it’s called a maternity leave in the contract, it’s simply a disability leave. Not only could I have planned better, but I could have spoken out for other women. So I feel you on that, Kate. And I’m glad you’ll take up the cause, too.

  10. Wow, I’m so sorry to hear about how your district handles your maternity leave, your pay and your benefits. That’s a terrible situation for our teachers.

    Losing your breadwinner status can be tough on the ego, but having a true partner to share all the bread with is much more important! I lost my breadwinner status when I decided a few years back to do freelancing work while my wife was still working full-time. Now she’s disabled and I’m retired, and so we don’t really have a “breadwinner”. But all along we’ve shared the bread and all the financial decisions and that’s what really matters.

    • You’re right, Gary! As long as the bread shows up, it really doesn’t matter. When you stop and think about it, it’s a team effort anyways!

  11. The big one for us was when my wife stopped working. Instant 30 percent pay cut. Then again it motivated me. I have so far increased my pay 15 percent since then and I believe I am close to making that 25 percent. Treating it as motivation really helped.

    • That’s a really powerful way to look at it! I’ve offered to edit as many grad papers as I can stand for my husband. I’ll still be able to work on my Master’s while I’m on my leave, but he’s working on more grad classes as well. It doesn’t matter (as much) who makes the money when you think of yourself as a team!

  12. We really need to advertise how badly school districts are treating teachers on this score, it’s appalling.

    I had a somewhat similar situation with getting my maternity leave, though it came in the form of losing a pay raise, instead, and thinking about it still makes me angry to this day.

    I gave up my sole breadwinner status a few years ago, though I am still one, and it took some getting used to but I’m glad that it was because our incomes came to match each other and not because of some other negative reason. I still get competitive about it, but only in my head 🙂

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who has held on to a bit of that competitiveness! I actually think it’s motivating for us more than anything. I guess we’ll really see how I feel when I collect that first “you owe us” check.

      And yes, schools have shockingly poor parental leave policies considering how many people think teaching is the “perfect” family career.

  13. i had to pick my jaw up off the floor after trying to understand your “benefits.” Thank you so much for your honesty in this post, and even more for your reiteration that married finances is a team sport! I don’t think of my wife as any less crucial to our efforts in managing our money just because her checks are smaller than mine. After all, if she’s not there to reap the rewards with me after the hard work is done (regardless of who did it), what’s the point? Life is about the impact you leave, not the money you make.

    • You’re so right, Kyle! Money is more fun when spent AND saved together. And you’re welcome. I definitely plan to write another post once everything shakes out because there are still some things that I haven’t been able to nail down.

  14. Karen

    In the span of our 27 years together, the “who earns more” has shifted back and forth and has now settled on me and will probably stay that way. It isn’t always easy to carry the weight of big financial burdens (such as college tuition right now) but in the scheme of things–we’re in this together with shared goals. Do we still have little petty arguments, sure, but the big picture is shared: love each other, give back to each other and our family. We may not always be in lock step but we each bring our all to the partnership. Enjoy the next journey with your expanded family, there is truly nothing like it!!
    Karen

  15. As a single lady, I’m both the Breadwinner and the spendy pants. I just compete with myself to see how I’m doing year over year. So far, I’m winning!

    I read articles like yours and it makes me even more aware of how blessed I am to work for a company that treats women somewhat decently. It boggles my mind that your district treats women so badly when the vast majority of the teachers…. are female!!

  16. I’m frustrated alongside you at the ridiculousness of your district’s policies, but glad it seems you’re making peace with the things you can’t change.

    I earn more than my husband, and he’s always been supportive and grateful, but it was an interesting change when we both cut back to part-time. While I still earn more and the percentage is about the same, the concrete number of our pay difference is now smaller and I think that makes him feel better.
    I think it also helped for us to cut back our hours because it solidified our priorities that quality of life and quality time with each other, friends, and family was more important than earning extra money.
    Finally, it also helps when I ask him for assistance with tasks even when I could handle them myself. Sure, I could pull out our stepladder more often or keep struggling to open the jar or take out the trash every week, but asking him for help lets him know that he contributes in non-monetary ways as well.

  17. Penny, this is really horrible. It makes me feel guilty for receiving pay during my maternity leave.

    This is the best I can do for you: having Half Penny should help a little bit. I had a really tough time during my pregnancy and the childbirth/hospital stay did not go well either. But now that the twins are here and we’re home, I’m doing so much better. I’m just so happy finally getting to snuggle with these guys, that it makes it easier to accept everything else. The money stuff is what it is. You’ve planned, done the calculations, and saved up. The good part will be here soon <3

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